Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pigs + Figs = Pig Newtons. A Grown Up Make-Ahead Party Food.

   When I was a kid one of my favorite cookies was a Fig Newton. I didn't get them very often as Fran wasn't big into sweets and when we did get cookies they were usually her trademarked homemade Butter, aka poker-chip, cookies. Once in a while a bag of Fig Newtons would find it's way into the house usually picked up by my dad at the day-old store on the way home from work. Of course, being dad he got the lions share. I remember him sitting in the kitchen, in a cloud of Camel smoke, a plate of Fig Newtons and a cold glass of milk in front of him listening to the Giants on KSFO. The kitchen was off limits territory to kids during the game but once in a while I'd sneak in and he'd toss me a bone, or rather a Fig Newton.

   I've thought of baking my own Fig Newtons over the years, but somehow I never seemed to get around to it, then last year Alan had the idea that instead of Fig Newtons, why not bake "Pig Newtons"? Pig Newtons? Really? All I could think of was this.

 So yeah, I was gonna bake a "cookie" made of figs and bacon. Right. I've been eating vegan for the last several months since my tangle with campylobacter, so yeah I'm gonna bake a bacon cookie.

   I baked a bacon cookie, so shoot me.

   Another thing we have here in Sonoma is excellent local bacon. Usually I have some home made in our freezer, but with the move and renovation I just haven't gotten my bacon on lately so I got some of our locally made Applewood smoked bacon and once again, pilfered Needlemans' fig tree. Pig Newtons were on their way to moving from just a bacon fever dream to reality. After all, I see all this bacon fig jam out there, it had to be just one simple step to make some of that and wrap it in a savory shortbread crust. It was.

   There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can make your own bacon fig jam, or buy some. I'll tell you here how to make the jam and the cookie dough, then you can figure out what you have to time for. Let's Newton!

Pig Newtons


Here's What You Need:  


 For the Jam:
1 lb Applewood smoked bacon
1 onion chopped
1 lb of fresh figs
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup water
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
2 Tbs bacon grease.

For the Cookie:
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp chopped  fresh thyme
1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 flour
1 to 3 Tbs water (I usually wind up using 3)

Here's What To Do:
Wash, dry, and quarter the figs.

Set them aside.
Chop the onion and set it aside.
Chop your bacon into small pieces.

Place a cast iron pan on the fire. When it's hot, add in the chopped bacon.

Render the bacon down. You're going to cook it so that it goes from this....

to this...

Scoop the rendered crispy bacon onto a plate covered with a paper towel to blot up the grease.
Take the hot bacon fat in the skillet and save 2 Tbs of it. Pour the rest of it off for use another time.
Pour the 2 Tbs of bacon grease back into the pan.

Add in your chopped onion.

Saute the onions until they turn soft.
Now add the quartered figs into the pan.

Stir them around and add in the brown sugar...

...the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and water.

Add in the ginger, chili, and the rest of the spices.

Kashmiri chili.

Finally, add in the crispy bacon pieces.

Stir everything around. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer the bacon fig jam for about 1 hour.

The jam is done when it thickens and turns dark.

Take the jam off the flame and let it cool a bit.
Move it to a food processor and grind it to a thick jammy texture.
Now, set it aside (it'll keep in the fridge in an air tight container for about 2 weeks) and make your cookies whenever you want.

Cookie Dough:
 This cookie dough can also be made a few days ahead.

Bring 1 stick of unsalted butter to room temperature
Cut it into pieces, set it aside.

Measure out 3 oz of grated Parmesan, set it aside.

Chop the sage and thyme and set them aside.

Put the butter into a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, turn it to low and blend it until the butter is creamy.
When it's creamy add in the Parmesan cheese, salt...

...sage and thyme.

Add in the flour.

Add each of these one at a time until each one is thoroughly blended in.
Finally add in the water to help the dough stick together.
I usually wind up adding in 3 Tbs, but go one at a time until it's the texture you need.
Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a round.

Flatten it into a round.

Wrap in in plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

You can make the dough ahead of time also. It'll harden up in the fridge so let it soften a bit before you work with it if you leave it there for very long.

Making The Cookie:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick.

When the dough is rolled out, square it off, and cut it into wide strips.

Spread some bacon jam down the center of each strip.

Fold one half of the strip over the jam.

Then fold the other side over.

Flip the roll to the unfolded side, and cut them into bite sized Pig Newtons.

Place the pig newtons on a silicone mat on a baking sheet, or just parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Once made they can be  stored in the fridge like this for a few hours before baking. Just cover them lightly with cling film.
Of course you can also bake and eat them right away!
Put them into your 350 degree oven.

Bake them for about 25 minutes.
Ah, the siren smell of bacon....

It seems that this is what oven windows were made for.
When the Pg Newtons have turned golden they're done.

Serve them piping hot.

   Last night our friend Marie, who works for Patz and Hall Winery here in Sonoma brought over some of their Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir. Our guests absolutely loved it. The perfect match I was told.

   Pigs and Figs, made for each other.

Coming up next, a return to Indian food,  with the classic Gujarati dessert Basundi. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Of Figs and Goats. Sonoma Style Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Ice Cream.

   The one thing we have plenty of this time of year here in Sonoma are figs. They're one of my two favorite fruits, (cherries are a close second) and they're everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. They're there for the gleaning at roadsides, and in backyards where there are such an abundance that people are just happy to have you come and take them off their hands. I like to think of them as a sweet version of zucchini. Except with figs, no one seems to leave a basket of them on the doorstep then ring the bell and run away. I wish they did.

   One of the first things we did after we bought our new house was plant fruit trees, of course a fig tree was the first tree in the ground. I went to the nursery looking for a Black Mission Fig tree. I had some delusional idea that figs came in two colors and two varieties, black and green, boy was I wrong. I only found out how wrong I was a couple of weeks ago. The night before the earthquake we went to a dinner at Sondra Bernsteins Pop Up venue Suite D. It was a Kale and Ping Pong Dinner. I thought it was going to be a meal of various kale dishes, and yes there was kale, but the kale Sondra meant was a young winemaker named Kale Anderson and it was the name of his winery Kale Wines.

   At the dinner we were seated next to  Peter and Gwen Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards in Yountville  among the restaurants they supply are the French Laundry, and boy do they know figs. They broughjt a wide variety to the dinner and quickly educated me as to what I'd bought. It turned out that the wierdly colored yellow and green striped figs I had growing in my backyard weren't sick, or mutants, they were Panache Striped Tiger Figs. That particular variety Gwen told me were especially delicious. I went home with new respect for my tree and a determination to get another one.

My fig tree however didn't put out enough figs this first year to really make anything out of, so I went to my favorite source, our friend Bruce Needleman's Fig Tree.  Needleman's fig tree is behind Needleman's store and he's perfectly happy to let me pillage it every year.

   So now that we're settled in the house, I'm back behind the stove and ready to put all this new equipment of mine to work. Casting around for the perfect thing to make in the new kitchen on a hot September afternoon (94 degrees) I turned to the other thing we've got plenty of here in Sonoma. Goats. Goat cheese to be exact. Laura Chenel's is about a mile and a half from our new house so I went and got some fresh goat cheese with the idea of making a simple goat cheese ice cream. As I drove past Needleman's fig tree I thought, hmmmm maybe some roasted figs in that goat cheese ice cream....the game was afoot.

Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Ice Cream

Here's What You Need:

2 cups fresh whipping cream
12 fresh figs
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup sugar
5 oz of fresh goat cheese
2 Tbs of olive oil

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Wash and dry the figs carefully.

Cut the stems off and cut an X shape in the top.

Place the figs in an oven-proof baking dish and drizzle them with 2 Tbs of olive oil. I used California Olive Ranch Arbequina variety which has a great fruity bite, perfect for figs, and or ice cream.

Pop the figs into the oven to roast for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile mix together the sugar...

...2 cups of whipping cream...

...and 1 cup of milk.

Stir the mixture together well and place the pot on the stove at a low heat.

When the milk /cream mixture starts to steam but not boil, take the pan of the heat and add in 5 oz of fresh goat cheese.

Stir the goat cheese in until it's melted and blended.

Pour the mixture into a container and set it aside.

Take the roasted figs out of the oven. Let them cool a bit them put them into a blender or food processor to puree.

Stir the pureed fig mixture into the ice cream blend.

Put the fig goat cheese ice cream blend into the fridge to chill for a few hours. You want it cold before putting it into a ice cream machine. I usually let mine it out a bit to come to room temperature before I put it in the fridge. Another alternative it to set the bowl into an ice water bath to give it a flash chill.
In a few hours when the ice cream mixture has chilled down, stir it up again as the cheese will have congealed a bit, and put it into your ice cream machine.

Let it churn for about 25 minutes. Bingo, ice cream!

   This is a very rich creamy dessert, figgy with a mild goat cheese flavor. All one needs is a scoop, as a little goes a long way. The combo of goat cheese and olive oil roasted figs satisfy any dessert craving. I'm thinking of pairing it with a savory shortbread, which brings me to what I'm up to next, an adult fig newton. I can't stay away from Needleman's fig tree and unless he buys a shot gun and that Lab of his grows some balls, I'm going to keep cooking with his figs. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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